Hackney Play Streets

Playing out

What are play streets?

Residents close off their streets to through traffic for a few hours weekly or monthly, so that children can play out more safely and neighbours come together – making streets friendlier for all. Fifty streets have taken part in the idea in Hackney. Schools, nurseries and other organisations are involved too.

See play streets in action

To get a taste of a play street in action, watch our short 3-minute film, see link above, and also read about the experiences of people running sessions.

BBC News interviewed residents, children and Hackney Play Association’s Allison Vitalis at a play street in July 2017 – watch here!

How to start up

To help you get started with your own play street, the four main steps to follow are:

  1. Consult with your neighbours
  2. Sign up supporters
  3. Apply to the Council
  4. Play out as often as once a week!

As a first step, download our guide on Consulting and applying as well as letter templates and other resources that will help. All available here

Children ride bikes, scoot and rollerblade in the street behind a Road Closed barrier

One of first play streets in Hackney kicks off!

How do closures work?

Neighbours volunteer to ‘steward’ road closures. People living in the street can still drive in and out at 5mph, guided by the stewards. Through traffic is redirected.

Once the road is closed off children come out to play, often with simple things like bikes, balls and skipping ropes. Parents are responsible for their children.

People without young children and older residents also join in – chatting with neighbours over cups of tea and sometimes helping with stewarding too.

Estate play sessions

Woodberry Down Aug 16

Estate play session in Woodberry Down

In some Hackney estates residents are taking a different approach – coming together for play sessions in public spaces and paved areas, without closing the street. Our project offers free support to parents wanting to try this model too. Contact us if you’d like to know more.

Free support

The Hackney Play Streets project is part of Hackney Play Association and is funded by Hackney Council. We offer free support to residents, schools and other community organisations that want to take part in the idea. For example we can meet you for a start-up chat, help you with photocopying letters, and give advice as you go along. We also aim to attend first play street sessions and will provide stewarding equipment. Find out more on the kind of help we offer here.

Our approach is based on the ‘playing out’ model first pioneered by Playing Out, the national organisation that supports anyone who wants children to play out in their streets.

Hackney was the first London borough to adopt the idea and only the second place in the UK, after Bristol.

Evaluations of Hackney Play Streets

In 2017 we published a new progress report by writer/researcher Tim Gill which summarises the results and uptake of play streets during the three year period October 2013 to September 2016. See: Play_streets_report_2017.pdf

In 2013-14 we commissioned Tim Gill to carry out a more detailed evaluation. See the Final full evaluation report and Executive Summary.

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